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Lara Schwartz, LMFT

"Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you."

~ Dr. Seuss

Eating Disorders

About Eating Disorders:

Eating Disorder clients tell me the eating disorder is like a friend, someone they can rely on, a way to feel in control and accomplished. The flip side of this is that the eating disorder eventually becomes the power that “controls” the life of the eating disorder client. And to seek treatment and face the possibility of a future without the dependable eating disorder is very scary. Clients share questions such as, “How will I be able to deal with negative feelings without my eating disorder?” And “How will I face intense anxiety without this coping tool?” Oftentimes clients choose to hold on to their eating disorder because the negative consequences they receive from it appear more acceptable than living with intense anxiety, low self-confidence, and feelings of low self-esteem and powerlessness.

The Anorexic clients are suffering, from obsessively counting calories, checking their bodies for changes in weight, anxiously refusing social engagements where food is involved, and often compulsively exercising. Their thought is that 'living is painful'. And the eating disorder is a reliable solution for the anorexic to stop the noise. All that he or she needs to do is to not eat and the voice quiets down.

The Bulimic uses bingeing and purging behaviors to finally be rid of the high anxiety and negative feelings they are experiencing. Temporary relief using eating disorder behaviors works but it is temporary. The anxiety and negative feelings return quickly.

The Families are suffering also. Watching a daughter or son hurt themselves by bingeing and purging, over exercising to the point of fainting, or starving themselves and causing low heart rates which result in frequent hospitalizations to save their lives is heartbreaking. Families feel powerless and do not know what to do. They do not understand what is happening and why their loved ones engage in these self-destructive behaviors.

Often the client with the eating disorder suffers from other challenges as well, such as suicidal ideations, self-harm behaviors such as cutting, depression and anxiety. And families often feel they have caused this complex illness or should have noticed when it started. Let me make a point perfectly clear, families are not the cause of eating disorders. They arise from a perfect storm of conditions: genetics, social media influences to have the perfect body, negative comments and bullying, a hypersensitivity to comments and conditions, a feeling of being misunderstood or not understood, trauma, coping skills deficits, dieting, and temperaments including perfectionism, impulsivity, rigidity in thinking, and harm avoidance.

What is the Solution? Because eating disorders are complex illnesses professional treatment is needed. And since the eating disorder controls the behaviors and thinking of those suffering with them, an outsider needs to take control to begin recovery. This outsider can be a parent, spouse, or professional. Dietitians and psychotherapists are the best qualified to coach loved ones on how to support those with eating disorders. They are also experienced in teaching clients how to follow a meal plan and begin the road to recovery stopping the obsessive thinking and harmful behaviors they have been engaging in for long periods of time. This road is not easy as families often find they are “battling” secrecy, aggression, anger, and anxiety. It is important to remember these behaviors are the eating disorder and not your loved one. Structure is vital for recovery and the meal plan is the solution to prevent a bulimic from being hungry and desiring to binge eat and an anorexic from continuing to restrict food just as the eating disorder is “ordering” him or her.

There Are Many Options for Recovery. If a person with an eating disorder is medically unstable with a low heart rate, quick and severe weight loss and abnormal labs, hospitalization or other intensive care options may be needed. Some recovery options include, but are not limited to:  

  • Partial Hospitalization and Intensive Outpatient programs offer support around meals, structure, and psycho-education and counseling as well as skills building.
  • Outpatient Registered Dietitians and Licensed Psychotherapists can support clients bi-weekly or weekly in the beginning and there are also in person and internet support groups that offer normalization of feelings and thoughts as well as support.
  • Dietitians and Psychotherapists with the designation of Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS), indicates they have accomplished intensive course work in the field and trained under qualified eating disorder specialists performing a minimum of 2500 eating disorder counseling hours. The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals awards this certification.

Help and hope is possible. Call me at 541-410-5343 for a free consultation and I can direct you to the appropriate level of care or we can begin the work on long term recovery, a more peaceful life, and the return to the hopes and dreams you have for your future. I also have a passion for helping families navigate their anxieties and helplessness, teaching how to coach your loved one in recovery in ways that do not repeat previous battles and non- productive outcomes.